Is COVID-19 impacting your workplace?
March 11, 2020
All employers should be taking precautions to actively manage their business’ exposure to health and safety risks arising from Coronavirus.
What should I do to make sure my employees are safe?
- Monitor and follow advices of the Australian Government Department of Health for the latest information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including requirements and conditions for quarantine periods.
- Provide and maintain a safe work environment. Employers must so far as is reasonably practicable ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. Further information about preventative measures and steps to take can be found from SafeWork Australia.
What do I tell my employees?
If an employee tells you that they:
- are feeling unwell and may be suffering flu-like symptoms;
- have been in close contact with someone who has or may have been in close contact with someone who has Coronavirus; or
- have travelled to an area affected by the Coronavirus or now subject to an Australian government travel ban (such as China),
they should be directed to follow the Australian Government’s health advice and seek medical advice immediately.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has published detailed information on managing COVID-19 employer and employee related concerns.
HIA Workplace Advisers are also available to discuss any concerns or questions you may have in relation to a particular situation or issue.
Can I ask an employee who has recently returned from overseas to stay at home?
In accordance with the latest government announcements anyone returning from overseas will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
You should talk to any affected employee about the best way to manage this, whether that be a working from home arrangement (where feasible), using some other leave (such as annual leave or long service leave) or any other paid or unpaid leave by agreement.
Can I direct my employees to stay home without pay?
There is no simple answer to this questions.
An employee can only be stood down without pay if they cannot do useful work in limited circumstances such as a stoppage of work for which you can’t be held responsible (e.g.- severe and inclement weather or natural disasters). Unfortunately, it is unclear whether building delays that may be attributed to Coronavirus would be classed as a ‘stoppage of work’.
Enterprise agreements and employment contracts may have different rules about when you can stand down an employee without pay. Therefore employers need to check these agreements and contracts to determine if any alternative scenarios may apply.
For further information please contact a HIA Workplace Adviser on 1300 650 620.